A few years back, Bhutan rather famously announced that it would no longer be a slave to the concept of Gross Domestic Product. Instead, it would measure its progress in terms of Gross National Happiness, as measured by a regular survey of its citizens. (The exact methodology can be found here).
This announcement attracted its fair share of gentle mockery, in part because we’re so accustomed to thinking of happiness as a purely subjective concept. But the lampooning hasn’t stopped Bhutan from refining its GNH formula, and the government-run Centre for Bhutan Studies recently announced its latest results, touting them as the most accurate to date:
How is happiness calculated?
Consider that hours of sleep (a1) and trust in media (a2) are two examples of the 72 indicators that can be measured on a scale of 0 to 1.
The formula is: GNH index = 1 –[(a1+a2+…..+a72)/72]
There is one more method to calculate happiness, but the above one gives a more efficient result, Tshoki Zangmo, a researcher with the Centre for Bhutan Studies, told BT.
Following the formula, Bhutan’s GNH index after a survey of 950 respondents from 12 dzongkhags was 0.812. This means that among the 950 respondents the happiness level is 81%.
The dzongkhags surveyed included Dagana, Tsirang, Wangduephodrang, Samtse, Zhemgang, Pemagatshel, Samdrup Jongkhar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, Gasa, Haa, and Thimphu.
The survey conducted between December 2007 to March 2008 showed Haa to be happiest district with an index of 0.8273 and Dagana to be the least happy with an index of 0.8026.
Each respondent was asked a long list of questions and an interview took about half-a-day to be completed.
If the 72 indicator indexes are first weighted to the nine domains, the GNH index is 0.805 and the happy-dzongkhag list changes with Wangduephodrang topping the list with a weighted index of 0.818 and Trashigang trailing as the least happy with 0.790.
The survey was an improved version of the three-month pilot conducted between September 2006 and January 2007 where 350 people in nine dzongkhags were interviewed. It took about seven to eight hours for one interview.
We somehow doubt such an approach could work in the United States, alas. Few of us are hardy enough to endure even 15 minutes with a census taker, to say nothing of a half day. Perhaps if liquor was served…
We are, of course, compelled by Microkhan House Rules to end any Bhutan post with a nod to Peter de Jonge’s classic New York Times piece, “Television’s Final Frontier.” In pondering the impact of Bhutan late entry into the TV Era, de Jonge came up with one of the best magazine quips in history:
Admittedly, inner Bhutan has a transcendent tranquillity. An hour’s walk in either direction can take you from tropical jungles to an alpine ridge. Yet how many Bhutanese will want to stay put in their cozy villages once they’ve glimpsed the hubbub beyond? History strongly suggests that few people will choose to spend eight hours a day knee deep in mud behind an ox if there’s an alternative.
Funny ’cause it’s true!